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Press Release: International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

On this auspicious occasion of the international women’s day celebration, the Women Affaires Unit of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) joins the rest of the world to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to the socio-economic development of the Gambia.

Annually, March 8 serves as a day to reflect on the success- stories and strives of women, the value of women in our societies and the impact of the efforts of women in the development of our societies, and as role models to our younger generation. Despite constituting more than 50% of The Gambia’s population, women remain under-represented in parliament, Boardrooms and in other high-level positions. This forms the crux of the 2019 International Women’s Day celebration theme #BalanceforBetter, advocating for more inclusion of women in all spheres of national development.

The Women’s Affairs Unit of the TRRC reaffirms its commitment to gender equality, advocating for equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women to balance the gender roles and mainstreaming of women issues in all spheres of national development. Most importantly, to see an increase in the number of women witnesses and or victims, and to safeguard their interest and protection during the TRRC process.

The theme for 2019’s celebration is #BalanceforBetter, a call for gender balance and women empowerment. Women in the Gambia have been inspirational in their various fields of work given the limited opportunities they have. They have further been breaking barriers by engaging in blue collar jobs that were male dominated. This gives a clear indication of the potentials of women that when given the opportunity they will succeed in further increasing the economy of the country for the better. The patriarchal structure of our society limits the rights and opportunities of women. However, Gambian Women are known for their wisdom, strength and determination in independently working for a living, while at the same time being caregivers in their homes and communities.

Despite the achievements registered, the rights of women have been violated in various forms during the past two decades of dictatorship. From being accused of witchcraft, to being sexually abused by public officials and actors of the state, women experienced some of the worse human rights violations in The Gambia. The TRRC under its mandate, seeks to ascertain the truthful accounts of these violations and abuses and to provide appropriate support to promote healing. For the TRRC, inclusion of women in its process is paramount. We therefore take this opportunity to encourage women to come out and narrate their stories. Our doors shall remain open throughout this process.

The women’s unit at the TRRC, hereby wishes all the women of the Gambia a Happy international Women’s Day 2019. #NEVERAGAIN

TRRC/ICTJ National Youth Caravan on Transitional Justice, February 4 – 13, 2019

by Cherno Gaye, Youth Empowerment Officer, TRRC

1)Executive summary

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in partnership with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) embarked on a ten-day nationwide youth caravan intended to use music, poetry and art as sensitization tools on transitional justice and nation-building. The theme of the caravan was “#OurNationOurVoice”. This was translated into Fula, Mandinka, Wollof and Jola and was made into a song by artists Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo and Yabse. The theme was also printed on the T-Shirts that the people on the caravan wore. Three regions were targeted: Upper River Region, (Basse and its surrounding villages), Central River Region (Janjanbureh and its surrounding villages) and North Bank Region (Farafenni and its surrounding villages).

2)Background On Monday 4th of February, the caravan left from Kombo to Basse with a group comprised of young people from different life pursuits and interests including activists, poets, musicians, and comedians. The ICTJ country rep (Joanna Rice), two staff from the TRRC (Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray of the Youth and Children’s Network Coordination Unit), three DJs and three drivers were also part of the team. On the 7th February the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) also joined the caravan along with the TRRC’s Community Outreach Coordinator Imran Darboe. The ACDHRS added a sports component to the caravan activities.

The caravan arrived at Basse on Monday evening, On Tuesday, Joanna Rice and a couple of other people went out to meet and inform the Alkalos of four villages around Basse that we intended to visit on Wednesday, of our presence and to seek their support in mobilizing villagers the next day. The rest of the team visited Nasir Senior Secondary School and St. George’s Senior Secondary School to engage students. In the evening, members of the caravan (Cherno Gaye, Lala Touray, Joanna Rice and Boobo Dimo) went to two of the community radios in Basse for an hour-long radio program at each station. The radio discussions centered around the mandate of the TRRC, the role of the ICTJ in the transitional justice process of the country, the importance of the #NeverAgain Campaign as well as the role of art, music, poetry and comedy in particular, in helping spread the message to all the people of this country.

On Wednesday the 6th of February the team visited four villages around Basse beginning with Gambisara, then to Sotuma Samba, Sotuma Sire and Alunghareh. The team distributed fliers, played music through the villages and held a dialogue session at each village’s Bantaba attended by the Alkalo, village elders, women and youth. Discussions focused on what the transitional justice process is about, why it is happening and what role the ordinary people have to play as far this process is concerned. The various institutions set up to see this process through were touched on, with the TRRC particularly cited as one of these fundamental institutions. The greater part of the discussion was centered on the role of the people in helping achieve the #NeverAgain Campaign, their rights and responsibilities as citizens and their duty to hold government accountable and protect democracy. After the opening statements in each village, villagers picked up the mike to voice out their thoughts and opinions, while some had questions. Most of the speakers expressed agreement with the fact that since power belongs to the people, it is important that we use it to our advantage, by selecting leaders who have our interest at heart. They also condemned in strong terms, tribalism and un-civil political divisions. The discussions were followed by the artists performing songs they recorded for the caravan.

On the 7th of February, ACDHRS and the outreach coordinator of the TRRC joined the caravan, adding sports to the activities of the tour. The sports component was funded by ACDHRS and a basketball and volleyball competition was organized at Basse Youth Center in the evening, which was then followed by a free concert by a combination of local artists and those on the caravan. Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray recited poems, Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse and finally the Bright Stars Entertainment crew each performed their specially made songs on varied aspects of transitional justice. All in all, it was a successful event. Our message was sent through, the people were entertained and refreshed, and in the end, our stay in URR was a success.

On the 8th the caravan left Basse for Janjanbureh, where the same format as in Basse was repeated. The villages visited were Yorro Biri Kunda, Boraba and Sankuleh Kunda. We also had a radio program at Bansang on the 8th and on the final day we had a football match between Armitage Senior Secondary School and the Community followed by a concert.

The caravan then headed to Farafenni on the 11th. We visited the villages of Noo Kunda, Illiasa and Yallal. A football and volleyball match were organized on the final day, 13th, followed by a big concert on the night. The caravan left Farafenni to return to Kombo on Thursday Morning having completed a successful nationwide tour.

3)Places reached

Upper River Region –Gambisara, Sotuma Samba, Sotuma Sire, Alunghareh

Central River Region – Sankuleh-Kunda, Yerro Biri, KundaBoraba

North Bank Region –Noo kunda, Iliasa, Yallal

4)Results/findings

·The artists in the persons of Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse, and the Bright Stars Crew were exceptionally instrumental in the mobilization and sensitization of the people in the communities visited. Their songs captured the entire purpose of the caravan tour, enabling us to reach the people in a way that speeches and discussions could never reach them. Bright Starts Entertainment Crew in particular were so influential during these ten days. We are convinced that the TRRC should engage them more often in its outreach activities.

· The Caravan was able to meet at least 3000 people (conservative estimate) directly in three communities. Coupled with the social media hype of the tour and radio programs, the indirect reach should be over 6000 people.

· Some communities have victims who need to be sensitized on why they should come forward as witnesses to the TRRC

5)Recommendations from the visited communities

From the community engagements, a lot of points and questions were raised. It a nutshell, the following recommendations capture the general gist of the main points that were made by the communities.

1. The transitional Justice institutions should warn government to consider the economic situation of the rural communities if they want a united Gambia

2. People who have been wronged and denied things that were their rights should have restitution

3. For the TJ process to be a success, rural communities should not be treated as secondary citizens any longer

4. Ways should be found in the TJ process, to separate the president or president’s name from groups like the “Green boys/Barrow Youth for national development” etc., on which national resources are sometimes spent

5. There is no access to GRTS in some communities though they can get Senegalese stations. This should be addressed if citizens are expected to know what’s going on in the country and be aware of current affairs and civic education.

6. Youth should do more engagements like the youth caravan, in order to make people more aware.

7. More outreach on role of citizens in constitutional democracy is needed, particularly on what steps communities or individuals can take to address infringements to their constitutional rights.

8. Police officers along the route and in the communities requested for TRRC/TJ T-shirts as they are also part of the Nation and can promote the objectives of the commission and TJ process

EVENTS

TRRC Commissioner Training

September 10, 2018

Truth Commission Training Of Commissioners and Senior Staff of the TRRC

TRRC Town Hall – Serrakunda

September 22, 2018

Townhalls are community conversations with the TRRC open to all citizens. Gambians from all walks of life are welcome and encouraged to share their hopes, concerns and perspectives on the our recent past and our collective efforts to shape a better future.

Women’s Listening Circle

September 29, 2018

The TRRC and its Commissioners will be hosting Women’s Listening Circles. These events are specially designated places for women to discuss the challenges they faced under the Jammeh regime due to being a women or girl.  This is a place for Gambian women together to find new voice.

Young Voices Campaign: Constituent Assembly

October 06, 2018

Gambia’s young leaders are driving positive change in our nation. The energy, determination and creativity they commit to the new Gambian embodies the ‘Never Again’ work of the TRRC. 

To capture young voices and engage young leaders in our work, the TRRC is hosting a Constituent Assembly in coordination with our partners from the youth movement. Over two days, young leaders will be elected by their peers to join the TRRC in Kombo to share their views, concerns, aims and commitments for the Gambian transitional justice process. 

​This event is in collaboration with the National Youth Council, TANGO, ICTJ and the UNDP.